Iceland Volcanoes

Iceland volcanoes are some of the most active volcanoes on our planet. they erupt often and can have devastating results. The volcanoes have brought famine and death to the population when ash killed food crops and livestock. The frequent eruptions have also brought flash floods.

Flash floods on volcanoes
The volcanoes erupt beneath glaciers and the water level builds up until the ice dam floats upward. This allows glacier water to suddenly turn into a major flash flood in the valleys below the volcano.

Grimsvotn erupting, USGS

Grimsvotn volcano erupting, USGS

Northern section Mid-Atlantic Ridge
Iceland sits on the northern section of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The ridge separates the North American Plate and the Eurasian Plate. As the plates separate rift valleys have formed.

Lava eruptions
Cracks develop in the valleys allowing magma (molten rock) from the mantle to erupt on the Earth's surface sealing the cracks until the next eruption. This is occurring all along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

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Persistent hot spot
Iceland rises above the surface of the Atlantic Ocean because it also sits atop a persistent hot spot. Hot spots are places where plumes of hot rock melt the Earth's crust and magma flows out of the volcanoes vent. The lava piles up around the vent and forms a seamount.

Island formation
When a seamount reaches the ocean surface it forms an island. The combination of sitting on the middle of two tectonic plates that are separating and over a hot spot has allowed Iceland to grow into the medium size island about half the size of Great Britain.

Surtsey Island
The newest member of the Iceland volcanoes to become an island is Surtsey. Surtsey was a seamount prior to November 8, 1963 when an eruption created enough volcanic material to become an island. Fishermen witnesses the birth of the island.

Monitoring Surtsey
Today scientists monitor and no other visitors are allowed there. They are studying both the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and hot spot volcanism on the island. They are also studying plant and animal life on the island.

More Planet Earth Links

Tectonic Plate Boundaries Find out about the major types of crustal plates and the boundaries around them.

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Asthenosphere Find out why scientists say the rocks in the asthenosphere has properties like silly putty.

Iceland Volcanoes Did you know volcanoes in Iceland formed because of the Mid Atlantic Ridge and a hot spot?

Planet Earth Find out about our planet from the Earth's core to the outer reaches of our atmosphere.

Kids Fun Science The links on our home page include information about volcanoes, science activities, plate tectonics, the rock cycle and much more.

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